Sunday, November 29, 2015   

Playing in the big leagues

Tony Liaw

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Undoubtedly there are great creative minds in Hong Kong and they just need a little bit of support to bring them on to the global stage.

Local mobile application developers will now have brighter hopes after Keith Runjahn took a step further into the world to showcase his creation.

Coachbase, a digital coaching board created by Runjahn, has drawn the attention of coaching staff and players in North America. His firm, bearing the name of the application, was selected for the first Nike+Techstars accelerator program.

TechStars is considered to be the most prestigious mentorship-driven start-up accelerator. Of the 114 companies that have graduated from the TechStars program, 98 remain active, eight have been acquired and only eight have failed. The success rate for most technology start-ups is estimated at 10 percent.

"One of the biggest advantages in the program is the unlimited access the start-ups get to established tech community mentors," Runjahn said.

All this success was built from a simple idea around children, the young entrepreneur said.

A graduate of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, Runjahn was coach of a young team basketball of 14-year-olds. That was back in 2007, when the iPhone was first released.

Finding it difficult to get the attention of the boys, he looked for different ways to make coaching more effective.

"The kids paid much more attention to my iPhone, where I drew plays on it along with some animated diagrams," he sa

"I found it very useful and started developing it into a more comprehensive application."

He quit his job as a software developer in a financial firm and looked for a new place to focus on his own work. His first thought was that Hong Kong was the best location to start his business.

And he was partly right.

The Coachbase application itself did not draw a lot of attention on the local market or even the mainland. "The value of sports is often overlooked in Asia."

But it was a hot pick in America and Europe, as the app supports coaching for sports including volleyball, American football, ice hockey, football and, of course, basketball. With the help of Cyberport, he received strong support - financially and on the knowledge front - to keep himself running.

Since then, the app has been downloaded more than 150,000 times. Users come from all areas, from recreational players to professional levels such as the National Basketball Association, and even to national teams. Coachbase mobile app has also stayed on the top of the chart in iTunes Store, Mac Store and Google Play for some time.

But what keeps Coachbase excelling is the after-sale services that Runjahn has focused heavily on. He said he did not know that the Wizards, the NBA team of Washington DC, had bought the application.

"Then one day, some coaching staff e-mailed me a request to modify some functions," Runjahn said. "I then realized they were using Coachbase."

The application is modified from time to time to provide that best experience for the customers.

Now, Coachbase supports cloud computing technology, allowing coaches to put playbooks on the server and sync content across different platforms, including iOS, OSX, Android and other major operating systems.

Runjahn is now bringing this app to high schools in the United States as the market is huge.

"There are similar programs sold to colleges and universities, but not to high schools yet," he said.

"The potential is so big there, and the app is especially helpful in coaching kids."

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